Avoiding Work from Home Scams: 5 Expert Tips

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Many of our readers are rightly worried about work from home scams.

Sadly, there’s no denying there are plenty of them out there.

As such, we’re very grateful to Emily Courtney, Content Specialist at FlexJobs, for providing these great tips for avoiding work from home scams.

Let’s get started.

One of the biggest concerns when searching for remote or work-from-home jobs is the possibility of being scammed.

Unfortunately, job seekers have good reason to be concerned. It’s been said that for every one legitimate work-from-home job out there, 60-70 other jobs are scams. This makes it difficult for job seekers to know if they’re applying to an actual remote opportunity or setting themselves up for disappointment—or worse, to be victims of a scam.

A FlexJobs survey found that over 80% of job seekers are very concerned or are on guard about encountering scams on other job boards. More than 19% of job seekers have already been the victim of a job scam, and 22% know someone who has been the victim of a job scam.

Though 15% of respondents report that they’ve been able to avoid job scams by knowing the warning signs, job listings can be full of scams that are hard to detect.

Scammers looking to take advantage of those wanting to work from home will impersonate recruiters, hiring managers, and potential bosses in the hopes of luring unsuspecting job seekers to provide personal financial information.

All too often, scammers get their way, and innocent job seekers find themselves not only out of a potential job but out of money as well. The good news is that you can take steps to avoid remote job scams.

1. Know the Warning Signs of Work from Home Scams

It’s true that job scammers change with the times and adjust their tactics depending on current events and circumstances. That said, most work-from-home job scams share several very similar characteristics:

  • The pay is out of line with the work. Things that sound too good to be true usually are!
  • The job posting makes promises about getting rich quick or making money overnight.
  • You’re asked to provide personal financial information early on in the process, like your bank account, social security number, home address, or birth date.
  • The posting includes multiple spelling and grammatical errors (that aren’t part of an editing test).
  • The job requires up-front expenses.
  • The company boasts celebrity endorsements or showcases rags-to-riches reviews that promise a certain lifestyle.
  • The posting provides a personal contact email address (janejones1234@gmail.com) or one that mimics a legitimate company email (janejones1234@dellcomputercompany.com).
  • You’re offered the job right away without any discussion about your experience or skills.
  • Your compensation is based on the number of people you are able to recruit.

Examples of job scams include asking you to pay upfront for “training,” or overpaying you with a fake check and then asking you to wire back the difference. According to the Better Business Bureau, 65% of scam online job postings involve package reshipment or becoming a “warehouse distribution coordinator,” which involves unknowingly helping scammers ship goods that were purchased with stolen bank information.

Certain words and phrases can also be warning signs of a remote job scam. Although preferred keywords used by scammers change from time to time (usually as people catch on to the scams), these nearly always indicate a work-from-home job scam:

  • Envelope stuffing
  • Free work from home jobs
  • Investment opportunities and seminars
  • Multi-level marketing
  • Quick money
  • Unlimited earning potential

2. Research the Opportunity

Sometimes, a “recruiter” will reach out to you and ask you to apply for a job. They may say that your skills and experience are a perfect fit for their position, and ask you to complete an application or send in your resume. They might claim to be working with a large, well-known employer, or they may provide you with a company name that you aren’t familiar with.

Either way, before you give them any personal information, do your due diligence and research both the job and the recruiter to see if you can substantiate who they are and what job is available. If they are legitimate, you should be able to find online information that verifies both the recruiter and the open position.

Also, contact the company you would be working for to verify that the recruiter is working for them and that the job you’re interested in applying for actually exists. If the company seems obscure with not a lot of information, try Googling the company name plus scam and see if anything comes up. If it’s not a legitimate opportunity, chances are you aren’t the first person they’ve tried to scam!

Keep in mind that some hiring managers may reach out to you with a potential remote position, but won’t disclose the name of the company you’d be working for. There are certain circumstances when a legitimate recruiter can’t give you the company name right away (like if they’re hiring for a position that isn’t yet vacant).

So, if you aren’t able to get the name of the company right away, be careful. It might be a scam, so be very cautious about disclosing too much personal information until you have more details.

3. Verify the Communication

With advances in technology and so many companies moving to remote work, the job interview process has evolved to be almost entirely virtual. In fact, nearly every part of the application process happens online—especially for remote positions.

Despite the popularity of virtual interviews, be aware of any hiring manager or recruiter who wants to conduct an interview via email or instant messaging, as this is often indicative of a scam (we have an example of one we encountered here). For a legitimate position, you may initially be contacted by email, but after that, the application process should proceed with a phone or video interview.

4. Trust Your Instincts

No matter how ready you are to find that perfect work-from-home job, it’s important to remain objective as you evaluate any and all remote job opportunities. First and foremost, listen to your instincts because they’ll rarely steer you wrong.

If anything feels even the slightest bit off or uncomfortable, or if the recruiter is being overly pushy and demanding and isn’t providing many job details, know that walking away is your smartest move.

If you’ve followed all the steps above and things seem to check out but you still don’t have a good gut feeling, listen to it! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to find legitimate work-from-home jobs by using scam-free job boards.

5. Use the Right Job Platforms

Job scammers will always try to take advantage of people who want to work from home, but there are ways to proactively avoid scams when you’re looking for a remote job. Using a reputable job board like FlexJobs or Remote.co that hand-screens and fully vets and verifies every job and company on the site to make sure each posting is legitimate and scam-free is the best way to ensure you won’t fall victim to a job scam.

If you need additional support, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission are great resources for finding and reporting online job scams.

As you search elsewhere, use caution, common sense, and a healthy dose of skepticism. You’ll be able to avoid work from home scams and be well on your way to the work-from-home job of your dreams!

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